Tuesday, May 31, 2011

California 5 Scotland 0 (Garden Paradise #2)

To be fair, then, here's what's happening in my garden today.

There are tiny wee green tomatoes on the Sungold tomato plant:

And since it's a Sungold tomato plant - ie yellow when ripe - green is halfway there.  So, to recap for anyone who hasn't had their heart smashed to rubble and their hope ground to dust gardening in Scotland, there are tomatoes on the way to ripeness, in May, outside, in the ground (not in a greenhouse or in a Gro-bag on the landing window).

Also, this:

Unimpressive, you say?  Small and boring?  Sidey-ways?  Okay, I'll give you sidey-ways, but this - gardening friends -  is a row of sweetcorn.  And for Scottish people old enough to remember when sweetcorn grew in tins (like peaches) this is a choir-of-angels kind of thing to see outside your back door.

Not to mention this:

It's an orange, in a tree, and unlike in my childhood it didn't get there because someone sneaked it out of the fruitbowl and flung it into the branches to see if it would stick and then got a bad row for wasting food.  For instance.

Which leaves the two big ones.  Beyond exotic, the closest gardening ever gets to glamour, worth immigrating for, I give you . . .

 . . . a prickly pear cactus, newly transplanted from a rooted cutting, bursting into blossom.  A prickly pear, I tell you.  A fruit so exotic it was never even tinned.  A cutting not withering in the May frosts.  A plant blooming days after being moved (instead of paying you back for your presumption by rotting and stinking and giving you something to skid on and break your ankle).  I'll report on the pear harvest in ten days, I expect.

And finally. . .

. . . okra.  [fanfare]  Okra!  It should always have the exclamation mark, like Oklahoma!  Okay, I only eat it once every five years when it's on a no-choice menu and I have no idea how to cook it and every time I've ever had it's been slimy.  But . . . Okra! 

Toto, we're not in Kilmarnock any more.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Three sex scandals and a crime series

Try as I might, I haven't been able to concentrate on writing stories, reading stories and growing plants this week.  (I mean, I've done it: the new book is underway, the adrenaline-soaked Save Me by Lisa Scottoline got read and my nasturtiums, sweetcorn, courgettes and okra have all germinated) but the newspapers and radio broadcasts have been full of sex scandals.

First, the ex-governor of my new state apparently had an affair which produced a child.  He kept it secret from his wife until his stint was done, then he told her so she dumped him and at last the story broke.  Pretty shabby behaviour.  A scandal.  But not one of the three that got to me.

Elsewhere, a businessman allegedly attacked a chambermaid in a hotel suite, attempted to rape her, leaving her injured, and checked out in a hurry to rush off to the airport after she got away.  She reported it, he was arrested, and now he faces trial.  This isn't a sex scandal.  This is an (alleged) violent crime.  The scandal is the deluge of articles calling it a sex scandal and calling him a charmer/seducer/womanizer who, this time, went too far.

Over the years, some priests in the Catholic church have attacked children, attempting to and succeeding in raping them, leaving them injured, and then running away.  Sometimes the children reported it.  Eventually some of the priests were arrested.  There have been trials.  These were terrible crimes.  This week a five year study by Catholic bishops in the USA concluded that poor preparation and poor monitoring, stress, and the social and sexual turmoil of the 60s and 70s led to the abuse.  This conclusion is a moronic, pitiful scandal.

Every day, men sexually abuse children, both boys and girls.  They attack them.  They rape them.  They injure them and then they run away.  Crime after crime after crime.  This week, a British MP stated that if girls were taught abstinence there would be less sexual abuse.  That any sentient human could say such a thing is a stinking, shameful scandal. 

Which brings me to the crime series, at last.  What I loved most about the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson was the escape into a cosy fantasy world where I'd love to live.  Others have called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels dark and disturbing.  I don't see it. 

In Larsson's world, all consensual sexual behaviour between adults is absolutely fine and dandy and all coercion,violence and paedophilia is wrong, is 100% caused by the decision of the perpetrator to do it and is 100% his responsibility.  In Larsson's world, rape isn't caused by stress and hippies.  Abuse isn't the fault of little girls who don't say "no" properly, and (alleged) attempted rapists aren't just charmers who went too far one time.

Next week, gardening and picures of kittens,  Maybe even a recipe or two.

Friday, May 13, 2011

garden paradise

So when we moved to California - the salad bowl of America, the tomato ketchup bottle of the world, the pickled walnut jar of the universe - it was with certain expectations.


Here's my undergardener in May in Scotland:

And here he is, taking it as easy as possible in May in California:

But it's worth it for the overflowing cornucopia of abundancy goodness, right?


Here's my veg patch in May in Scotland:

And here's my veg patch today, 12th May 2011, in California:

And now in close-up.  Look - it's a salad.  Look harder.

I've got a sneaking suspicion that all the "local" produce in markets and roadside stands all over this state is secretly imported from Aberdeenshire.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sitting typing alone in a room

Hmmmmmm . . . blogging about being a writer . . . (see title).  It's going to be thrilling stuff.  On the other hand, when I'm not writing, I'm (drumroll) usually gardening.  Or even (hang on to some sturdy fixture) reading.
So, if it seems to you that the precious online time you could use to watch Top 60 Ghetto Names on Youtube again would be better spent reading about my books and garden, this could be the blog for you.

To be fair, I will report from Thrillerfest in NYC and all that, and gardening these days does include killing the odd rattlesnake, and one of the questions people ask most at book events is "What do you read?".

It's an odd moment in my writing life right now, in that lots is happening but I'm not the one making any of it happen.  My UK editor is reading Dandy Gilver No 7 (working title: The Trouble with Young Ladies), my US editor is reading DG6 (An Unsuitable Day for a Murder).  My agent is working with my last stand-alone modern novel (working title: Open the Door).  As for me, I'm thinking about preparing to plan to start to grope my way towards the initial stages of a new one.

Hence all the gardening.  I moved onto twenty neglected acres in Northern California last autumn and, even though cow lodgers have come to eat and fertilise about fifteen acres of it, there's still a lot of waist-high weeds to deal with in the short Ca spring before everything dries to biscuit again for the summer.

And reading.  I started keeping a reading diary a few years ago, getting tired of sitting with my mouth hanging open and my brain dripping out of it whenever anyone asked me what I read.  I don't make notes or anything  - it's not homework - but I always pick a Book of the Month.  BoftheM for April, which might well turn out to be BoftheY was the astonishing Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon.  Published in 1980 but newly re-released by Persephone.  http://www.persephonebooks.com/  It's not at all a typical Persephone - think Miss Pettigrew, Dorothy Whipple etc- boy oh boy but it's good.  (Except for the puzzle of a weirdly graphic sexual episode late on in the book that feels out of place and unbalancing (compared to earlier descriptions of sex all done in the best paahhsible taste)).

Hey, I did it.  I blogged.

And the world is exactly as much richer as I thought it would be.  I dunno, do you?